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Why dogs are diagnosed with cancer more frequently than people. Is the canine cancer rate really higher than for human cancers? Have there been any cures?





Barbara J. Andrews, Science Editor, SAAB Member, AKC Master Breeder


Why would dogs have more cancer than people?  It makes no sense at all.  You are much more likely to see a suspicious area on your own body than on your dog.


Many sites state essentially the same thing “Dogs and humans get cancer at similar rates ...” but I found none that offer any basis or statistics for that claim. The conspicuously missing information motivated me to do a little digging but canine cancer facts are scarcer than hen’s teeth!


Think about this. Your dog doesn’t smoke, drink, or take drugs.  He's not likely to be exposed to carcinogens in the workplace. On average, dogs spend more time outside in relatively fresh air than do humans. You see a doctor more often than your dog.  Why?  Because overall, dogs are healthier - if spared from too many inoculations and fed appropriately for a meat-eater.


So why then are dogs so frequently diagnosed with cancer? They can’t self-diagnose a suspicious lump or growth and call a physician. Are we to believe this cancer treatment statement from Pets.webmd “Fifty percent of dogs over the age of 10 develop cancer at some point”?  There is no reference cited nor provided. Not to worry, the same site then purports to list breeds most affected by cancer but first it wants you to watch a slide show. Of course.  Time on site boosts search engine ranking.


Instead I sought other sources for canine cancer information, i.e. the frequency and most common cancer diagnosed in dogs? The most profound thing is that “mixed breed” dogs have the highest cancer rate according to statistics provided by Embrace Insurance company.[1] The second thing that caught my eye was this statement on[2]Dogs and humans are the only two species that naturally develop lethal prostate cancers. The type of breast cancer that affects dogs spreads to bones – just as it does in women. And the most frequent bone cancer of dogs, osteosarcoma, is the same cancer that strikes teenagers.


That was hardly comforting news.


I found a lot of sites that offer to test your dog’s DNA, as though knowing if he were likely to develop cancer would make his life or yours any more bearable. I deemed them all “catcher sites” i.e. of no value other than to their advertisers, which pay according to "hits" (traffic count and time on site).


This statement was interesting although not hopeful. “The tumors with potential relevance for human cancer biology include osteosarcoma, mammary carcinoma, oral melanoma, oral squamous cell carcinoma, nasal tumors, lung carcinoma, soft tissue sarcomas, and malignant non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.[3]


As in human cancer research and treatment, canine cancer is big business. Even so, I was astounded by the $$$ involved in acquiring companies that do animal health research[4] and market their products. Quote “As part of its $3.6 billion purchase of King Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer’s animal health organization will acquire King’s animal health organization, Alpharma Animal Health. Alpharma develops, manufactures and markets pharmaceuticals and nutritionals for food producing animals. The organization’s 2009 sales were $359 million.


My radar really went up when I spotted this blurb. “TGen and VARI study cancer in dogs to find new treatments for humans … They could provide the DNA keys to findings new treatments for rare cancers and other diseases in both dogs and human patients.


The figures and stats were dated April 15, 2010 but here it is late 2017 and I found nothing that connected any cancer study to any cure.  Read that again.  Maybe I missed something or misread “The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) have created the Canine Hereditary Cancer Consortium, a program designed to study naturally occurring cancers in dogs to better understand why both pets and people get sick.


Are we kidding?  Which cancers are hereditary?  That is news... but here's the point.  The eliminating factor in search engine returns are the words “cure” and “successful.” I found no sites or services that actually offer a cure or successful treatment for cancer. 


After billions of dollars in funding over the last 2 decades, we are left with but two conclusions. Either there is no cure for cancer or the research funding is of more value than a cure. In fact, many health experts in both animal and human medicine have said as much.


In the meantime, multi-million $$$ “federal stimulus grants” such as those to the “Canine Hereditary Cancer Consortium, which includes TGen and VARI in partnership with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the University of Pennsylvania, Michigan State University, dog breeders and veterinarians” will continue to roll in. Note that such donations are tax-deductions to the giver. When you look at the good publicity gained by mega-names such as PetSmart, Hills Pet Nutrition, and other pet supply companies, mega-donations are like “found money” in addition to providing profitable press coverage.


The Executive Chairman of PetSmart stated “We're proud to be part of such an innovative approach that fully supports our mission of providing total lifetime care for pets, and one that will offer hope to people and dogs who are suffering from these illnesses.


Let us hope that some dog, somewhere, sometime, will benefit from canine cancer research.

Reference information, all offsite[1] Embrace Pet Insurance/cancer  [2] Fetch A Cure/facts  [3] Springer Link/Tumors  [4] Alcherabio/pet-owners EST 1998 © 1707r9



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